By Thomas Sellers Jr.
For the first time since 2014, the Tipton-Rosemark Academy Lady Rebels are heading back to Murfreesboro.
With a 5-3 and 4-2 sweep of The King’s Academy Lady Lions, TRA earned a spot in the final four of the Division II-A State Softball Tournament beginning May 22.
“I’m super excited right now,” Lady Rebels Head Coach Johnie Sanfratello said. “I’m so happy for the girls that they get a chance to experience this. They have worked so hard for this.”
The Lady Lions arrived from Knoxville Tuesday for the Sectional Series, best two out of three. The first game began at 5 p.m. with Lady Rebel Charli Rice on the rubber.
King’s Academy jumped out 1-0 in the first inning after just two batters. TRA settled down and escaped the opening inning down by one run.
“We didn’t get down,” Sanfratello said. “We had plenty of opportunities to roll over but we didn’t. We just kept playing. We made mistakes but the girls never gave up.”
The Lady Rebels neutralized the King’s lineup over the next three innings with timely defensive plays including an Abby West home run-robbing catch in centerfield.
TRA finally got on the scoreboard in the fourth inning with a blast that almost left the park when senior Shelby Clifton led off with a double bouncing off the top of the wall. West came up clutch again using her bat to stroke a game-tying triple.
Emily West was up to the plate next and hit a ground ball to score Abby making the tally 2-1 in favor of TRA.
King’s Academy deadlocked the game at 2-2 in the top of the fifth inning. The Lady Rebels had the answer in the sixth when Abby West crushed a homer 215 feet over the leftfield wall.
Ahead 3-2, the Lady Rebels kept the pressure on the Lady Lions when Emily West delivered a triple. TRA senior first baseman Emily Fisher drove her in with a single to make the score 4-2.
After a Sarah Allyn Thornell sacrifice bunt moved Fisher into scoring position, Lexie Williams hit a single to bring her home to make the scoreboard read 5-2.
The Lady Lions managed only one run in the seventh inning and TRA had a 5-3 victory and 1-0 series lead.
The second game was scheduled for 30 minutes later. Sanfratello gathered his girls on the third base line to remind them of 2015. But before he could reminisce about the last time TRA had a 1-0 series lead and lost it, the voice of a senior erupted from the middle.
“We were in this position three years ago,” Sanfratello said. “It was Fisher who just said this thing happened three years ago. We have to stay focused in this game. We have to come out ready to play in this one right here. And keep this momentum, not letting them get any of it back.
“Last time they threw Taylor Beasley out at the plate and it kind of gave them the momentum back from us,” he continued. “So we have to keep that momentum right here.”
Sanfratello said prior to game two, his Lady Rebels have turned on the switch.
“Judging by that last game, yes,” he concluded. “We have come out focused in this game, we’ll be ok. We’re about to find out what we are made out of.”
TRA proved they are one of the best Division II-A teams in Tennessee beating King’s 4-2 in the second game. Senior ace Rachel Whitley stroke out three Lady Lions and limited them to six hits in the victory. Whitley also popped a home run in the clinching win.
By Thomas Sellers Jr.